Spotting Coronavirus Scams

Scammers are a sad fact of life.  It would be nice to think that they would “go straight”, for the duration of the pandemic.  Unfortunately, quite the opposite seems to be true.  Some people are treating the Coronavirus scare as an opportunity to scam other people out of money.  Repulsive as this is, there’s very little the police (and other enforcers) can do right now as they are so busy.  The good news, however, is that there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself.  Here are some tips.

Assume any Coronavirus-related email is a scam

This may seem a harsh thing to say, but it reflects the fact that scammers are targeting people in their own homes, from the comfort and safety of the internet.  According to figures from RiskIQ, there has been a surge in the registration of COVID19-related domains and a significant percentage of them are suspicious.  There has also been a surge in people impersonating legitimate domains such as the WHO.

Treat any Coronavirus-related email as a scam even if it is forwarded by someone you know as it probably means that they have been fooled, or, worse still, that their computer has been taken over by malware and it has used their contacts list to try to find further targets.

Hopefully, you are already protected from this by robust security software on your computer.  If not, now is the time to get some.  This means Mac owners too.  They might have been immune to malware once upon a time, but not any more.  It’s also strongly recommended to put security software on any mobile devices you own and again this includes Apple devices.  You might want to consider paying for protection at this time, but if not, or if money’s too tight, there are some good, free options out there, like Comodo.

Remember it’s very unlikely that a legitimate organisation will use WhatsApp

If you receive a WhatsApp message claiming to be from a legitimate organisation, it’s almost guaranteed to be a scam.  Text messages may be legitimate, but a high percentage of them are scams too.  Never click on any links they contain.  If you want to find out more, open a browser window and look at a legitimate source of information.

Beware cold-callers

This one is far from unique to the Coronavirus, so consider it a reminder as, yet again, there has been a surge in these.  Possibly this is down to a combination of the fact that the Coronavirus is (understandably) in the news and the fact that people may be more likely to answer their phones to strange numbers in case they genuinely need to be informed of something. 

Never let yourself be pressured into taking any action, not even handing over your details.  These days, any legitimate organisation will have a social media presence so they can give you their details on that and you can check them out – or not.  A lot of mobiles have the option to report spam numbers, usually by pressing on them so a new menu pops up.  If yours does, you can do your bit to make life better for everyone by reporting spam calls.

Follow the standard guidelines for spotting scams

It may sound cynical, but the Coronavirus-related scams are just a twist on long-standing tactics.  This means that long-standing countermeasures will work against them.  Basically make sure you know who you’re dealing with, what they want and why.  If you’re given information by someone you trust, remember that they could have been fooled themselves.  Never let yourself be pushed into taking any action, especially not if it involves either your personal details or money.